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April 5th was the 21st anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s tragic death. Since then, we’ve had The Weaks release Bad Year - with two tracks that put a spin on the Seattle band’s song titles – and now we have Nothing’s cover of “Something In The Way.”
The Philadelphia shoegazers premiered the somber song through Noisey and the track will be featured on label Robotic Empire’s second Nirvana tribute album, Whatever Nevermind. The compilation, which includes covers off Nirvana’s 1991 album, Nevermind, features another Philly-based band’s, Circa Survive, take on “Drain You.” Continue reading →
Josh Tillman, (formerly of Fleet Foxes) now performing as Father John Misty performed a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” during a session for Sirius XMU. Continue reading →
A folk song is a living organism. They are continually and constantly adapted and adjusted to fit new circumstances and environments. A few scant lines can grow over the years to become a rich fully developed narrative, incorporating specific facts and people from the contemporaries that alter it. Over time, these facts can disintegrate, losing meaning or relevance, so the song might be remolded anew – trimmed of verses, stripped back to basics, or combined with other narratives to create something wholly new. No one owns a folk song and that’s the most wonderful part about this whole thing. Like the flora and fauna around us, folk songs are for all to admire, revel in, and most importantly, interpret.
One song that has grown in meaning and length around the singers that have taken it up is “In The Pines.” Since its origination, sometime in the 1870s and probably somewhere in the Southern Appalachian region, the song has been transplanted from genre to genre, adapted, evolved, and changed to suit the singer’s interpretation. Also known as “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and “Black Girl,” the history of “In The Pines” is as thick and layered as the pine tree’s bark. In a New York Times article from 1994, the author cites that a dissertation on the song found as many as 160 different versions. He continues on, positing the question: “Why does a song like ‘In The Pines’ endure and permutate so insistently?” In asking this question, I think we get close to the roots of what makes folk music important and enduring. It has to do with universality and accessibility; language may change, narrative elements may fall off, but emotion, grit, sweat and blood don’t wash away so easy. It reminds me of Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” “In The Pines” has been viewed in many different ways, but in each case, the mood is intensely dark, a place where “the sun never shines.”
“In The Pines” written and recorded history begins in 1917 when Cecil Sharp, a folklorist and song collector, printed the song as a verse and a melody,
“Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me,
Where did you sleep last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines,
and shivered when the cold wind blows.”
It’s amazing that from these four lines, the song has taken on such varied meanings. Different versions include people fleeing implied seamy pasts into the equally seamy pines, which can be symbolic for crimes, sexual debasement, and, of course, death. In many versions, a “long train” factors into the story, acting in some cases as a stand-in for Death and in others a means of escape. In even more versions, there are traces of prostitution, existential questions, and brutally violent events (involving decapitation by said train). The narrative may change, but the feeling remains as cold, dark, and lonesome as when Cecil Sharp wrote down those four lines.
The most influential recording of “In The Pines” is associated with Lead Belly, recorded in 1944. Musicians as diverse as Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, Link Wray, Odetta, Bill Callahan, Dee Dee Ramone, Nirvana, and countless others have tackled the song, imbuing it with new meaning each time. We’ll hear a few renditions tonight on Folkadelphia Radio.
Also during this episode, we’ll premiere a session from the duo of Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, recorded at the end of last year. The two were married in 1999 and have been performing together since 2000. In 2013, they released Wassaic Way, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, an album that draws on the two’s rich musical past and pushes their Americana rock sound in fun, new directions.
As the 20th anniversary of his death approaches, fans and admirers of Kurt Cobain are making plans to celebrate the late Nirvana frontman’s “life and genius” at Ortlieb’s on April 5th. There will be live videos of the band screening while Nothing’s Brandon Setta plays classic Nirvana tracks alongside other hits by the Seattle outfit’s peers. The event is free and 21+, and you can get more information on the Facebook event page here.
Here’s a little slice of local rock lore: 22 years ago today, Nirvana headlined J.C. Dobbs’ for the second time, on tour in support of their newly-released Nevermind album. You can hear the entire set via YouTube below; according to the venue calendar you see pop up in the slideshow, the guys were performing (with The Melvins as an opening act) right after Scrawl headlined the venue and just before Yo La Tengo was set to play. Other events on the calendar, which may ring some bells with local music heads, include The Low Road, Dandelion, and the Mikey Wild Dance Party.
Additional tidbits and lore, per YouTube:
-The band requested extra monitors for the show because Kurt was sick with stomach pains, according to the venue’s publicist.
-The crowd was unhappy with the band’s choice not to play an encore, so they provoked the band with shouts of “sellouts!”
Listen to the set below, and check out the setlist after the jump. Previously: Happy 46th Birthday, Kurt Cobain! Watch Nirvana’s first Philly show at J.C. Dobbs in 1989.
For some musicians, getting to meet one of your musical icons is more than enough. But having one of them say enjoy the the art you’re creating? Holy cow. Or, as Bleeding Rainbow put it when Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic tweeted about them last night, “!!!!!!!!&;$;&3′cidndncbbdn!!@.!:8/&:!;!!n?!?!!!!!!!!???!”
It was pretty straightforward; Novoselic simply said “I like this band – Bleeding Rainbow” and linked to their Waking Dream 7″ on Bandcamp. But as anybody who has listened to music in the last 20 years knows, that’s a badass endorsement to have. Bleeding Rainbow manager Dryw Scully Instagrammed the tweet, saying “I never repost. But holy shit @rainbowbleeding that dude played bass in a band called Nirvana..” True that.
Bleeding Rainbow’s full-length Yeah Right is out on January 29 on Kanine Records, by the way, and it rules hard. Check out the video for “Drift Away” below.
At their show last night in Brussels, Belgium, indie pop band Best Coast covered Nirvana’s “About a Girl.” Currently on tour in support of their sophomore album The Only Place, the band announced that beginning in January it will join Green Day on tour. The two bands will appear at the Liacouras Center at Temple on January 22nd. More ticket information for that show can be found here. Below, watch Best Coast perform “About a Girl.”